The Adderall Diaries Review – An Amphetamine Fueled Ride

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The Adderall Diaries, from A24, presents the story of best-selling author Stephen Elliot, who, after penning the story of his traumatized childhood, is catapulted into the world of Manhattan’s literati which balloons his ego, alters his state and stills his pen.

Directed and written by Pamela Romanowsky, The Adderall Diaries stars James Franco, Ed Harris, Amber Heard, Christian Slater, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Parrack and was adapted for the screen from the book of the same name.

We meet Stephen Elliot, played by James Franco, on a good morning in Manhattan. Wondering around his loft, the same one he had prior to success, a voice comes through the wire, his editor/agent Jen Davis, played by Cynthia Nixon (Sex in the City) has secured him a new book contact, an advance, and all he is responsible for is producing a chapter, 20 or so pages, a week. Should be no problem for the newly minted literati extraordinaire.

Suddenly overcome with writer’s block, Eliot turns on the television and becomes absorbed in the trial of a handsome, youthful, vibrant, Tech Genius, played by Christian Slater accused of killing his equally loving, adorning, vibrant wife and burying the body. He swears he is innocent, his wife has abandoned the family and children. She is watching from somewhere relishing in his injury.

Absorbed Eliot sits in on the trial, believing he can be the next Truman Capote, he is looking for some way to surpass the success of his autobiography. At a pivotal moment, Slater turns and makes eye contact with Lana Edmond, New York Times crime beat reporter, played by Amber Heard.

Taken with her Eliot ends up inviting her to visit the crime scene when she sees his bike, she throws down the challenge and driving takes over the control. The romance, doomed from the start, takes a dark turn as Eliot’s unresolved issues are rooted and manifest as fetishes masking his inner beliefs that pain is synonymous with love and the line between love and hate, pain and pleasure, is often blurred especially during heightened moments of sexual arousal which are usually fueled by drug and alcohol cocktails.

On this day, those deep, dark days are still ahead, and the two are swapping war stories and opinions on guilt or innocence, where the body would be buried and other morbid thrills. As a newly knighted literati, a New York Times writer is the preferred evening accessory to a read of his New York Times best seller.

From the audience, a man, a ghost, clearly dead to the author and the surest way to stun the literary world is to have the departed abusive father, penned and certified throughout the memoir show up at the high society read. Unsure how to respond as Neil Elliot played by Ed Harris begins to expose his suddenly embarrassed son, the carefully crafted world seems to crumble.

What follows is every artist’s nightmare. The world, the life, respect, advance, friends, editor/agent, all disappear as Eliot becomes increasingly drug dependent, pain addicted, which has him confronting the memories of his childhood, embellished verses truth.

James Franco took the lead role and ran with it. Not familiar with Stephen Eliot, his work or life, the first glimpse of this tortured soul came through Franco’s performance.

In defense of the writer, Stephen Eliot, the memories are not that far off of the words he wrote that propelled him to stardom initially. As there are two sides to every story, two motivations for actions and two interpretations of the same event, his and his father’s hold some truth. Facts and evidence are irrefutable, motivations are not.

Oddly the story of the recalled childhood memories seemed common in our flummoxed world.  Fathers do leave, walk out, without thought or concern and leave destruction, the charred remains of a once loving life behind. Rising from the ashes becomes difficult, if not impossible, and an embellished memory seems slight in the coup of triumph over what seemed a sure victory for the enemy of the soul.

Amber Heard offers solid support in her role, although it does seem difficult to believe she is a New York Times crime beat reporter. She catches some moments with genuine authenticity others seem more difficult and hard to believe.

Her scenes opposite Franco as the relationship progresses are easier to believe possibly as she doesn’t reflect the aged news reporter appearance that goes along with the stodgy NYT reputation. She is a rising talent, is working often and she does genuinely hit the arch.

The ensemble cast works well together. Cynthia Nixon, a seasoned talent is perfect in her role. Franco and Ed Harris, as father and son have the most heated exchanges as years of festering hatred over loss, hardship, and abandonment collide. It is cataclysmic and works well on screen.

The Adderall Diaries held its premiere during the Tribeca Film Festival and is playing in select cities through the United States. Check local listings.

The Adderall Diaries is an amphetamine rush and worth seeing.

Image courtesy of The Tribeca Film Festival